Faye Price, the actor, director and theater leader who has had a broad impact on the arts in Minnesota over her decades-long career, has been named the 2021 McKnight Distinguished Artist.

A onetime board chair of Minnesota Citizen for the Arts, Price was instrumental in advocating for the Minnesota Legacy Amendment, which voters approved in 2008 and is expected to provide more than $1.2 billion for arts and cultural heritage over its 25-year life.

"I'm appreciative and overwhelmed," Price said. "I guess if you hang around long enough, somebody will notice you."

She is the first African American woman to win one of the highest and richest honors in the state, which comes with $50,000.

Price stepped down this summer after 21 years at the helm of Pillsbury House Theatre, a company that has become deeply embedded in its south Minneapolis community. After the civil unrest that followed the killing of George Floyd just blocks from the theater, Pillsbury House, whose programs have included early childhood education and truancy prevention efforts, became a resource center offering food, drink and essential supplies.

"We are thrilled to celebrate Faye, who has brilliantly demonstrated how theater can advance civic conversations about race, equity and justice," McKnight Foundation president Tonya Allen said in a statement. "As our stages reopen and we come together once again for live theater, we look forward to seeing Faye's vision and mentorship of artists of color continue to resonate in performances around the state."

Artistically, Price has worked throughout the state and nation, serving as a dramaturge for dozens of shows at the Guthrie Theater, and acting on stages of such companies as Park Square, the Jungle and the History Theatre as well as at New York's Circle in the Square and Baltimore's Center Stage. Importantly, Price was a founding company member of both Mixed Blood and Penumbra Theatre companies.

"That's just great — she deserves it," said Penumbra founder Lou Bellamy, who has directed Price in numerous shows and also taught her at the University of Minnesota. "She's a wonderful actor with a smartness and intelligence that comes through in all her characters."

Bellamy also is a recipient of the McKnight Distinguished Artist award, which honors "a Minnesota artist who has made significant contributions to the state's cultural life." Previous honorees include painter Jim Denomie, photographer Wing Young Huie and composer Libby Larsen.

Under Price's leadership at Pillsbury House, the theater collaborated with the Guthrie and Mount Curve productions to stage Tarell Alvin McCraney's Brother/Sister trilogy, directed by Tony nominee Marion McClinton.

In addition to McClinton, Price brought numerous accomplished artists on as company members at Pillsbury House, including the late actor Laurie Carlos, an original member of the company of "For Colored Girls Who've Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf," and playwright Tracey Scott Wilson, who penned the screenplay for the Aretha Franklin bio pic "Respect."

"Meeting Faye changed my life," Wilson said, recalling her time living in the Twin Cities. "She embraced me and helped me find my way as a human being and artist. She's a person of impeccable taste and honor and dignity, one of the smartest producers I ever worked with and one of the best dramaturges, tough where she needs to be but always with compassion."